Brendon Voelker’s nature-inspired sculptures
By LIESEL SCHMIDT
Photos by BRENDON VOELKER
In looking at Brendon Voelker’s art, it’s easy to see the incredible attention to detail, patience and nimbleness that it takes to create each piece. The twisted copper wires, the tiny stones, the way everything comes together to become something with life and movement—all of it is there in the miniature trees or creatures that take shape under his fingers.
Though it could be up for debate, Voelker claims that he hasn’t always been artistic. In college, he studied architecture but was admittedly better at recreating than designing from scratch. He did some freelance Photoshop and web design work as a side to his main business of working as an outdoor guide, and then during COVID, he found a new outlet that seemed to ignite his creativity in a whole new way.
“The pandemic basically shut down my business as an outdoor guide during 2020, so I found myself with a considerable amount of free time,” he explains. “I’d purchased some art in the Southwest several years ago from the Big Bend region of Texas, and I had always wanted to recreate it. In high school, I had worked on multiple wire art projects, and in college, I studied architecture and worked with numerous mediums. I’ve found that working with wire is satisfying, and I’ve visited or lived in several areas where copper mining is prevalent. The ties that copper has to the local economy, history, culture and to my travels only add to my personal connection to it.”
After finishing a few twisted wire and stone trees, Voelker began creating under the name Shining Rock Studios, encouraged by friends and family to pursue it further. “Social media, art markets and the support of a couple of retailers have kept me going,” says Voelker, who was especially inspired by the Shining Rock Wilderness in Pisgah National Forest. “It’s home to a 6000-foot quartz mountaintop, and many of my rocks and subject trees are from the area. The pure, milky and smoky quartz bases I use are my favorite. I also enjoy the shimmering effect that mica adds to many of my pieces.”
Those pieces, created using tools like needle nosed pliers and wire cutters that Voelker stores in an old cigar box and spools of wire ranging from one to five pounds in weight, begin with cutting an appropriate number of wire strands—usually around 18 inches each in length—which he then shapes into the tree’s limbs and roots. Next, he coils each individual branch until it looks like a spring, and then each coil is unwound by hand and gently shaped to form the final branches. He then adds volume and color through the use of tiny stones, which become the leaves though, for some tree species, Voelker may forgo the leaves to offer a winter or “dead appearance.” Finally, he meticulously glues each root to the base he chooses from his large collection of rocks.
“Without question, nature inspires nearly all of my work,” Voelker says. “Many of my pieces reflect particular tree species such as oak, pine, hemlock, cedar, birch or spruce, and on numerous occasions, I’ve begun projects along the Blue Ridge Parkway using certain trees for inspiration. As for the smaller creatures I make, the Southwest inspires much of my art as well. I’ve hiked, run trails, mountain biked, camped, paddled and driven through the vast expanses of west Texas and into New Mexico, and my scorpions, spiders, roadrunners and other wildlife are a reflection of that region.
“Creating these pieces is an outlet for me to recall places I’ve visited, memories I’ve made or areas I want to return to,” he continues. “It’s similar to why I choose particular tree species or subject trees to recreate. The rocks have also been hand-picked, and I can remember where most of them came from. My knowledge of the Appalachians is vast, and having certain pieces of work tied to specific areas is rewarding. It’s a direct reflection of the things I’ve found valuable in my life, and I think people respond to the thought that goes into each piece. From where the rock came, to the type of tree I aim to create, to the gems I use for certain projects, I overlook no details. Even for items that have been gifts, I often try to match gems to someone’s birthstone or favorite color.”
Voelker has found that much of his purchased art adorns windows and mantels as display pieces in both homes and rentals. His art brings the outdoors in, and in an area where the mountains are king, that is often just the right touch. Voelker sells his work through Facebook, Instagram and word of mouth, with a few pieces for sale at Designed by Dee Floral in Brevard as well as online at his Shining Rock Studios shop on Etsy or directly by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.